INDIVIDUALISM: The term 'individualism' has a great variety of meanings in social and political philosophy. There are at least three types that can be distinguished: (1) ontological individualism, (2) methodological individualism, and (3) moral or political individualism. Ontological individualism is the doctrine that social reality consists, ultimately, only of persons who choose and act. Collectives, such as a social class, state, or a group, cannot act so they are not considered to have a reality independent of the actions of persons. Methodological individualists hold that the only genuinely scientific propositions in social science are those that can be reduced to the actions, dispositions, and decisions of individuals. Political or moral individualism is the theory that individuals should be left, as far as possible, to determine their own futures in economic and moral matters. Key thinkers include Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, Robert Nozick, John Locke, and Herbert Spencer.
COLLECTIVISM: Collectivism is defined as the theory and practice that makes some sort of group rather than the individual the fundamental unit of political, social, and economic concern. In theory, collectivists insist that the claims of groups, associations, or the state must normally supersede the claims of individuals.